Donne’s The Flea as a Metaphysical Poem
The Flea as a Metaphysical Poem : The Flea (1633), written by John Donne is a short metaphysical poem that deals with the poet’s addressing his beloved about their sexual union with the help of the insect flea.
The Flea as a Metaphysical Poem
Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, nay more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that, self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now;
’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be:
Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.
The Flea Poem : Summary
The Flea (1633), written by John Donne is a short metaphysical poem that deals with the poet’s addressing his beloved about their sexual union with the help of the insect flea. It gives an insight into the sexual intimacy and challenges the contemporary Reformation where Donne seems to be playful with his explicit sexual imagery and language. Donne uses aspects of conceits , wits , unification of sensibility, puns and others as a metaphysical element in the poem.
The poem uses metaphysical conceits where the body of the flea is exaggerated and stretched to give a meaning out of it. When the flea bites his mistress and him then their blood is mingled inside the body of the flea. It is further stretched where the body of the flea is compared to the wedding chapels and their sexual consummation or marriage bed. Here, Donne is using a conceit to express the body of the flea as their sexual union where both the analogies contradicts to one another yet it is stretched to give a meaning out of it.
The poet uses his wits and intellect to justify and expound his arguments in the poem. He uses his wit by stating that his mistress should not kill the flea since they can be one and united in the body of the flea even if their parents disapprove of their relationship. He tells his mistress that they are safe within the body of the flea and killing the flea itself will add to her list of sins including the three sins which will come out of killing the flea. The three sins include the sin of killing the flea, the betrayal of their marriage as well dishonoring her chastity. Here, Donne uses his wit to justify his argument rhetorically and are calculated precisely to make his argument justifiable to his mistress.
The poem embodies the idea of unification of sensibility. It is when the poem has a balanced proportion of wit and emotions at the same time. The poem has the aspects of writer’s wit and the emotions. The emotions arises out of his love for his mistress and seduction whereas the wits arises out his arguments and justification to his mistress. The poem blends the equal proportion of wits and emotions and hence the unification of sensibility is deposited.
Lastly, the poem seems to address subtly the Christian references which would give an ironical overview for the Renaissance readers. It seems that Donne is aware of the contemporary Reformation status where discipline and chastity are being introduced in the society but he seems to input it in his writing yet is playful about it. He compares his sexual union as the “marriage temple” where the “temple” is the Church. Indeed, it is a Christian reference but he seems to address in an ironical way. It is a pun where he is showing to the readers about the importance of chastity and discipline in the poetic style but he is showing different aspects in his thematic style. He address that the idea of chastity that is embodied in the body of the flea where killing it would establish three sins. These three sins refer to the dishonor of the Holy Trinity itself. Donne is playful here and he is suggesting his beloved not to kill the flea since she would lose as much honor as the flea took away her blood.
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